Christmas is either a celebration or not, it seems. One of the reasons it is not a celebration for many people is cultural irrelevance, but for others, it is often a time of bad memories, and gets the blame as the reason families fall out. We think it is safe to say that the seeds of Christmas “blow ups” are sown long before the day. That can happen in any family, but there is no doubt that when parents separate, there needs to be more co-operation than ever between them, to make sure that all the traditional holidays and celebrations of their family are still happy times for their children.

One of the reasons we focus on whole family relationships at MELCA, is because we know that separation has an impact on children, no matter what their age. A healthy separation goes a long way towards allowing children of all ages to be comfortable with both parents, and to eventually accept new partners. The hope is that children never feel that they have to choose between their parents. When children feel that they have to make a choice, or pay secret visits to one parent for example, they may choose to stay away from both parents. Sometimes they can’t act on a decision to stay away from both parents, until they are adults. Christmas and other times of traditional celebration are when the stay-away decision can be most obvious and hurtful to everyone. Sometimes it is when parents learn for the first time just how much their children have resented them both for the way they managed their separation.

Gary Direnfeld’s article in the link below, talks about adult children being forced to choose between parents:

As always, Gary Direnfeld has some good insights and tips for managing this kind of situation. Avoiding the situation where children feel torn in the first place, is the real key to them, adults or not, being able to see themselves as part of one family. Even if there are multiple celebrations going on, the choice of venue should not be about who the children are trying to avoid, or who they are trying to please.

There is a lot of doom and gloom spoken about the negative impact of divorce on children, but the Australian research says that the absolute majority of children do well, and those who don’t, are likely to have had parents who didn’t manage the separation without conflict and involvement of their kids. We fully support the idea of mediation, collaboration and most prized of all, working with a child specialist who can be the key to avoiding stories of doom and gloom for children of separated parents. And if the situation with adult children is difficult, the counselling professionals are there to help with that too.

We wish all separating families the smoothest of transitions, and we are forever committed to transforming the way they experience separation and life after it.

Marguerite Picard

A family lawyer who has chalked up countless (almost) years-end celebrations.